ISLAMABAD - Chairman Senate Standing Committee on Interior Senator Rehman Malik, on Thursday, urged the government to create national unity and consensus to combat coronavirus.

Participating in the debate in the Senate on COVID-19 outbreak and its impacts on the country, Senator A. Rehman Malik urged the government to not take further foreign loans and invoke Force Majeure Law to write-off the current foreign debts.

He said that he had already submitted two resolutions in this house; one was about avoiding further foreign loans and second was about invoking the Force Majeure Law provisions to write-off Pakistan’s existing foreign loans adding that the law was a good option with Pakistan to get relief.

He said that over 300 lawmakers from around the world had also urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to cancel the debts of the poorest countries in response to the coronavirus pandemic and to boost funding to avert a global economic meltdown.

He informed the house that in this regard, he had written a letter to FATF President on 21st March 2020 to remove Pakistan’s name from its grey list and on 26th March, 2020, another letter to UN Secretary-General was written to play his role in removing Pakistan’s name from that list. He said that he was glad that FATF gave Pakistan a temporary relief of six months, however, if government would pursue his plea and work, the name of Pakistan could be removed from grey list forever as it was adversely affecting Pakistan economy. “Indeed a pandemic brings miseries but we can turn those miseries into opportunities by wise and timely decisions.”

Senator A. Rehman Malik expressed that the government seemed confused on the definition of lockdown adding that a smart lockdown meant to restrict the movement of the public in a specific area rather partially allowing the movement of the whole public across the country without proper preventative measures and following the standard SOPs of World Health Organization (WHO).

He said that unfortunately, our country would have a drastic increase in the positive cases of coronavirus in upcoming days as after easing the lockdown, neither the people were observing social distancing nor the government was implementing the SOPs. He said that the advice of the government was not being followed in markets and streets and other public places. He said that the presence of Prime Minister Imran Khan in parliament in these difficult moments would have conveyed a good message to the people of Pakistan. “As an elder of the Pakistani family, PM should have attended the parliament’s sessions on the current pandemic.”

PPP Senator A. Rehman Malik in his speech also apprised the house about the services of standing committee on interior. He said that during his visit to Quetta early on February 25, 2020, he felt the potential outbreak of coronavirus in Pakistan soon after its outbreak in Iran and China. He said that he called an emergency meeting of the committee on 27th February specifically on coronavirus, when only two cases of COVID-19 were reported across the country and gave a comprehensive anti- coronavirus National Action Plan containing 37 highly important recommendations.

He said that situation would have been different today if those 37 points were implemented timely. He said that he had advised the government to hand over all airports and entry points to army’s Medical Corps for proper screening of all incoming passengers to timely stop the spread of coronavirus in Pakistan. Chairman Senate appreciated Senator A. Rehman Malik for his work on coronavirus and ordered that copies of the report of the committee should be distributed among all the members of the house.

Senator A. Rehman Malik asked the government to bear the charges of coronavirus tests of the poor patients. He asked that the poor patients may be tested either in the government hospitals or reimbursement might be given to private clinics that provided testing facility to poor patients. He said that it must be investigated as to why testing kits were imported on high prices while he knew many suppliers who were willing to provide the same at very low prices. He urged the government to focus on agriculture sector and announce relief packages for farmers.

Senator A. Rehman Malik also briefed about the COVID-19 as most recently he had launched his book “Coronavirus- A Threat to National Security”. He briefed the house about the nature, weight, chemistry, spread, destruction and prevention of viruses. He said that it was necessary to identify the patient zero and origin of the COVID-19 and for this purpose he had written letter to Secretary United Nation to constitute UN Commission on COVID-19 to investigate the origin and patient zero of COVID-19. He said that he had also written a letter to Bill Gates as for many times he had predicted about the outbreak of pandemic.

In his speech in the Senate, Senator A. Rehman Malik urged the government to create national unity to combat coronavirus unitedly as it was a threat to our national security which we would have to combat with national unity. Referring to Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s speech in National Assembly, he said that his party leader had offered his full support to the government to fight coronavirus which the government was refusing but a month later government itself would be begging for his support. He said that he was surprised by the speeches of some members from treasury benches, which contrary to the need of the hour were full of blame games. “We must not play politics on coronavirus as it is an issue of human lives.” Referring to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s speech in the Senate, he said that he must not turn the issue of coronavirus into a political platform to play politics on it.  At the end of his speech, Senator A. Rehman Malik urged the nation to follow WHO’s SOPs and avoid unnecessary mobility and stay home. He urged the government to create political consensus and unity.